Thanks for reading and for sharing the love of books! Nevel would be so proud!
Did you know that the best way to help an author is to write reviews in places like AMAZON and GOODREADS? Some books never reach the hands of would-be-willing readers simply because they don't know the book is out there! If you have read and enjoyed any of my books, leaving a review online is so appreciated! It is FREE and EASY to write a review! In just a few minutes, you can share a few sentences about the characters or the story-line or the setting! The more reviews a book receives, the more readers find the books!
Thanks for reading and for sharing the love of books! Nevel would be so proud!
One of the messages I share when I am speaking at schools and signings is the powerful fact that you can READ yourself ANYWHERE. The reason that books survive... even as technology's luster seduces eager crowds and wows even the non-believers with virtual reality and instant gratification of Google searches and Siri replies...books survive (digital or my favorite - hard copies) because people love to escape into stories. A story can take us straight out of our every day lives and place us in an entirely new world, new time period, and even a new persona! I tell students that if they can read, they can go anywhere! Libraries are still free and a book can be the best vacation! You don't need money to read yourself anywhere you want to go!
Often I am asked what the best part is about being a writer and my reply is sincere: The best part is being able to WRITE myself ANYWHERE. This is how the I Am Currency series began. I dreamed of traveling the world, but couldn't afford to - so I wrote myself around the world as I led Nevel on a wild goose chase that begins in Australia and extends to Papua New Guinea, Abu Dhabi, Ho Chi Minh City, London, and Jakarta! These are places I never dreamed I would see, but I was lucky enough to get to see these places through Nevel's eyes ...and so can my readers! I knew when I wrote IAC that I wanted it to be an adventure that took the reader away from the reality he/she may know!
The book lover in me, the teacher in me, wants -if nothing else- to entice children and adults alike to love reading. This is why the IAC trilogy is infused with references to classic literature - in the hopes some readers may seek those titles out and find out why they were Nevel's favorites! This is also why I placed a Little Free Library in my town of Kinston - to continue to share the love of reading. I love nothing more than to find that the books I've left have been taken - I imagine the readers escaping into other worlds and time periods and I am elated. What could be better than a good story? Now go find a book and read yourself somewhere!
Three years ago this weekend, I announced the fact that I had my first book deal! I noted that it was fitting that Labor Day Weekend was the time of the announcement as writing "I Am Currency" had been a labor of love! Now, three years later, I await the release of the third and final book of the trilogy, "Owners of the Sky."
To say this is bittersweet is an understatement. The characters have become real to me. Their triumphs and failures have weighed on my heart. It is with great joy that I anticipate the final story's release to the public. You have been patient and I appreciate your patience. I hope you will find it was worth the wait. I think you will love how the trilogy ends, I know I did.
Still, it is hard for me to say goodbye to Nevel and Quinn, and I hope it will be hard for you to say goodbye as well. Follow my Facebook page in the coming weeks for hints as we anticipate the release of "Owners of the Sky."
While this is the end of one series, it is not the end of writing for me. I have several other projects on the back burner. Nevel and Quinn deserved my full attention until their story was finished, but it is not the last book for me... so stay tuned.
Get ready for "Owners of the Sky"...the story ends here!
Writing is a journey, not a destination. Here are a few tips to help you on your way!
1. Be authentic. Readers can sense when you are forcing a character, an event, or even a setting. Write honestly and organically even when it seems risky or too raw. Authenticity wins readers.
2. Write through emotions. Often, when I am writing a scene that evokes strong emotions from my characters, I am living those emotions. This is when I often feel like a crazy person writing through sobs as a character experiences tragedy or heartbreak. I've learned that the scenes I cry writing are the ones readers say brought them to tears as well. Don't be afraid to write with your heart wide open.
3. Fiction is the greatest escape. I tell readers (especially when I speak at schools) that you can write yourself anywhere and you can read yourself anywhere. Allow for the escape. Let the fiction be as far from your truth as you want. I try to write stories I would enjoy reading and when I ask myself why I enjoy a certain work of fiction, the answer I find myself repeating is that I am able to dive into the story and escape my own reality. Give the readers a vacation from their lives by taking them away to the world you create.
4. Walk away from your writing and return to it. There is no better advantage for me than looking again at my own work with "fresh eyes". Writers can become so enveloped in their stories that sometimes what we think we've said is still in our heads and not on the page. Step away from your work every once in a while and return to it to re-read it with fresh eyes. You will be floored by what you discover is missing or needs changing.
5. Don't be afraid to trash something. It doesn't matter if I spend weeks, months, even years of my life on a piece of writing...if I decide it's no good, I trash it. I don't consider the efforts put forth as a waste, but rather as a cathartic part of the process to rid my brain of unneeded ideas to clear the path for better ones. Good writers know what's going to stick and what needs to be forgotten.
I think we all can use a little giggle, so I have fabricated some sample “tweets” from moms across the ages just for fun! I have broken them down by centuries and decades just to give us a glimpse as to what the moms before us may have been tweeting, had they been given the chance! Enjoy!
1800’s / 19th C
TWEET: Watching the kids run after chickens while I’m #churning butter…won’t even be able to eat it…if I want to breathe #sooverthiscorset
TWEET: #firstdatenightsincethebaby A walk? Really? This qualifies as date night? #doesthisbustlemakemybuttlookbig?
Early 1900’s / 20th C
TWEET: #Strolling the baby. Heat is atrocious! #parasolin’
TWEET: #thevote is great and all, but can a mama get one full night of sleep? #thatswhatImscreamin #cryinbabiesintheweehours
TWEET: Dear Mr. Cleaver, June’s not cooking tonight! #cookyourownsupper #Momsgoingtothedriveinsolo #arewereallysupposedtocookeverynight ??
TWEET: Kids hiding under the hatch in the back of the #wagon when I hit a pothole – they popped up like the dice in #Trouble #Classic!
TWEET: #Naptime for my baby! On my #stationarybike watching #Charlie’sAngels #BringontheTAB
TWEET: Hope the tape in #TeddyRuxpin buys me 30 minutes #frostingmyhair
TWEET: #Saturdayamcartoons All it takes to get laughs from my kids - a couple of #anvils and a #whatsupdoc
TWEET: Trying to save my #CollegeMixTape ! The little monsters pulled the tape out like #ChristmasTinsel ! #windingitbackwithmypinky
TWEET: Took almost 2hrs to set up #MouseTrap for #Familygamenight . My youngest sneezed in the first 3 minutes #gameover
TWEET: #Embarrassedtoadmit I snagged my son’s #Gameboy to play #Tetris while he was at #school #needastraightline
TWEET: Broke a nail cranking my car window+ the auto seat belt zipped by and caught my hair! #AquaNet #ASAP
2000’s / 21st C (up until Twitter)
TWEET: BPA? #UhOh
TWEET: Are #HappyMeals #organic and #glutenfree ??? #oops!
Often, I am asked how I write, how I achieved publication, what it's like to be an author. Rarely am I asked the most important question, why I write.
I think it is important to address this topic because so many people out there also want to achieve publication, but may often miss the point. I write because I love to write, I mean I can't not write; it's part of my makeup. Writing, to me, is cathartic. Anyone who knows me well, knows I write and have been writing since I was a little girl. So, why do I write? Simply because I love writing.
I once attended a retreat with the fabulous Patricia Lee Gauch. We spent a week in the mountains of North Carolina discussing, critiquing, dreaming out loud...and so many of her students asked about how to get published. She told us something that made perfect sense to me and I have carried with me my entire life, "If you are writing to get published, you are missing the point." I understood exactly what she was telling us: Real writers write for the love of writing, publishing is simply the cherry on top.
If you want to pursue publication, first ask yourself why you write. If you are writing for the love of writing, dig your heels in and keep on keeping on!
The thing about writing is that you must love it to pursue a career in it because it isn't all roses and champagne. People tell me often that they too have written a book and want to publish it. My reply is always to encourage this. Why not? There are so many stories out there worth telling! There's plenty of room in this great, big world for new writers! I do worry, however, that many of these people see the publication process as all roses and champagne. I also often feel that they think I can give them my "secret" to getting published. The good news is there is no secret! Truly, anyone can be published if they are ready to work for it! The bad news for most, however, is that there is no "quick process". My publication came after decades - yes DECADES- of hard work. It wasn't "luck" that I was published. I Am Currency wasn't my first book or my first attempt at being published. My publication came after a lifelong love and passion for writing which refined and improved for over 30+ years, decades of research, an English degree, decades of trial and error with query letters, attendance of writer's retreats and workshops and conferences, membership into writing groups, critiques, rejections...with a sprinkling of success here and there throughout it all.
Being a writer can be tricky because it is one of those things that can teeter on the fine line between hobby and career. I have a quote from one of my favorite authors, Pat Conroy, hanging on the wall by my writing desk. It is a quote from his book, My Losing Season, but actually words from his favorite teacher at the Citadel who told him: "You must learn to think of yourself as a writer." Even after the publication of two novels and a third on the way, I still often hesitate to call myself a writer. Why? My life is not glamorous. My process is not perfect. I am no expert. Often, my life looks like the chocolate factory from I Love Lucy...but I love it and I will continue to write for the rest of my life for the love of writing.
My best advice to aspiring writers is to research, read, attend conferences and workshops, welcome and accept critique, and don't give up. Start small with publications in local magazines and newspapers. Work your way into pieces in anthologies. Once you have a portfolio of small successes, begin pursuing publication of your manuscript. This was the process I used. It took decades, but I ended up where I wanted to be. Don't expect favors, just put in the work. And don't expect champagne and roses or a glamorous life. As you can see from my recent author interview, the life of an author can be a lot like an episode of I Love Lucy.
In a recent author interview from the super sweet Terri A Wilson (http://www.terriawilson.com/blog/whitney-l-grady ), I reply to a question about how I balance all of life's demands with my writing. Here is the Q+A:
"How do you balance writing with the other demands in your life?
Remember the old I Love Lucy episode when she is working in the chocolate factory and the belt goes faster and faster and she ends up in a chaotic mess? Often, this would be the best example of my attempt at balancing it all. Like most moms, some days I am organized and have everything working like clockwork…other days, it’s a chaotic mess!"
Happy Mother's Day! Here's a story that I wrote a while ago, but it remains one of my favorites on motherhood.
One thing I have learned as a mother is that we all will do anything to make our children’s lives better, even if it means it may involve taking a ride on the “crazy train”. Don’t pretend you don’t know about the crazy train – we all ride it now and then. I took one particular long ride on the crazy train the year my son broke his arm.
When my son was three he broke his arm and we bought him a fish. It was a cheering up gift. He named it Franklin. Franklin was a hit. He was small and orange. My son would press his chubby cheeks up against the bowl and watch with wide blinking eyes right against the glass (probably freakish-looking eyes to Franklin once the bowl distorted their size). Franklin would swim in circles and my son would give me the play-by-play. “Mama, Franklin’s swimmin’ down!” “Mama, Franklin’s swimmin’ up!” Ha! Amazing!
One day soon after Franklin’s arrival to our home, I found him belly-up in his bowl. Panic set in. The minutes were ticking until I needed to pick my son up from preschool. The whistle of the crazy train called from a distance. I rushed to the pet store and bought another fish. He was big and orange. Yes, I admit it, I replaced Franklin. And guess what? My son never even noticed.
And then it happened again. I found Franklin belly up. I could hear the crazy train chugging down the track, coming for me. I went to the pet store again in a panic. This time the new Franklin was small and orange again.
It happened again. Choo choo. Now Franklin was bigger, orange, and even had a white spot.
Again and again, the ruse went on, undetected by my son. The train was moving and I was on it.
The last time it happened, my son was home. “Something’s wrong with Franklin!” I heard him scream. Oh no, I thought to myself, not while he’s home!! Panic set in again. The whistle of the crazy train blew. I called my husband at work.
Sidebar – I have been a full-time working mom and a part time working mom, with only one very short stint when I did not work at all as I was home with my new baby daughter. This happened during my non-working stint. I’m not sure my husband appreciated being interrupted during his work day as he was the sole provider and we needed that pay check, but nonetheless, I interrupted him. You bet I did. Choo choo.
The call to my husband went something like this, “You have to come home. It’s an emergency.” Click.
My husband’s truck came flying in the driveway minutes later. There I stood with a baby on my hip and my three-year old holding a zip lock bag full of water with a dead floating Franklin #4 or 5 -I can’t remember – in it. His jaw dropped. I knew what he was thinking: I came home for this?
“Daddy, something’s wrong with Franklin,” Thomas’s sad face said as his chubby fist held up the bag with the orange floater.
I said something along the lines of: “We’re so glad you’re here, honey, I told the kids you could take us all to the fish hospital!” My husband’s face was priceless. I gave him a wink as we buckled the kids into their car seats. I’m not sure he appreciated the situation, still, but he joined us in the car nonetheless as he was on the crazy train now too.
I blared a kids’ sing along cd – the kind the kids loved and the parents wanted to smash with a sledgehammer. It would distract the kids from hearing the plan. From the front seat, I whispered to my husband the devised plan. He was to drop me at the door of the pet shop and I would rush in with Franklin so as to get him “the most urgent care”. This is what we would tell Thomas. Then daddy would park and unbuckle the kids (that could take a good ten minutes easily) and make their way into the “fish hospital”. This would give me time to make the switch. Choo choo.
And so it went, we came squealing up to the pet store/ aka “fish hospital” on two wheels and I rushed the lifeless fish inside. “Run, mommy, run,” I heard as I took off into the pet store.
Inside, I ran to the desk. The same kind lady who had seen me rush in and out all those times before to replace the fish saw me and immediately went for her net to scoop me out another one.
I explained to her that I needed this fish in our zip lock bag – after we dumped Franklin #5 or was it #6– and I needed her to tell my son that she was indeed a “fish doctor” and that she had indeed revived “Franklin”… that is if she didn’t mind. Choo choo.
Maybe the woman was afraid of me in all my craziness, maybe she was just that kind, or maybe she had ridden the crazy train herself once or twice…but for whatever reason she went ahead with my crazy plan and my sweet three year old with a cast got Franklin back. Again.
On the way home my husband laughed at me and asked me how long I planned on continuing this crazy, desperate fiasco of a situation. Would Thomas be on the way to college with Franklin #763 someday? My response was that I would eventually let Franklin die, just not while my poor sweet three year old was still in a cast.
And so when the cast was finally shed and physical therapy complete, the crazy train sat still at the station while we allowed Franklin #8 or was it #9 to finally pass. My son dug a hole in the yard and put a rock on his grave and we said a few kind words and thanked him for being a part of our life.
Here's to the mothers who have ridden the crazy train! Happy Mother's Day!
It is March in North Carolina and spring is beginning to bud. The time has changed and daylight lasts into the evening to allow for family walks and time to marvel at this beautiful world we miss too often because of the busyness of our days.
I was raised as a “free range child,” not like the children of today. We were not fenced into our yards, but enjoyed roaming the neighborhood and town at our leisure. Our parents rarely knew exactly where we were and, without cell phones or social media check-ins, we were essentially untrackable. We were free, I tell you, free.
I have fond memories of times well before second grade when we lived in the country and we walked out of our house, often barefoot, and wandered the creek and woods in search of anything exciting. It was nothing for us “free range children” to wander acres of woods only to return home to eat if we felt hungry. We could travel miles without our parents ever knowing. M-I-L-E-S! If our parents needed us, they called us – not with phones, of course, but with their hands cupped around their mouths as they hollered our names into the wild. Like animals, sometimes we came when we were called, and sometimes we didn’t. If we didn’t, the parents usually took it as a sign that we were not yet hungry and they simply continued to go about their business.
When my family moved into town, we remained “free range”. It was only the range that changed. We enjoyed walking to Main Street for lunch, shopping at general stores, and visiting local -small -town museums. We explored grave yards, brick paths, church gardens, and train tracks. We could be gone an entire day by foot or bike and never even think twice about our parents wondering where we were. Why? Because they didn’t wonder where we were. The only protocol (and this rang true with every family back then) was that all children should be accounted for by dark. If you saw the sun dipping in the sky, it was time to go home. Time had nothing to do with it. We didn’t have to wear watches.
I wish I could raise “free range children” today, but the world is different now. I cannot imagine letting my nine –year- old or even my eleven –year- old wander free from sunrise to sunset without me ever knowing where they were…but sometimes I wish it for them. And so sometimes we go on adventures where the three of us become free range children together. We find some of the few places left in this modern world where nature is vast and open and we lose our day in it. We climb beneath the hollows of great magnolia trees and pick up the glossy over-sized leaves and climb through the twisting branches. We find trees with fruit offerings that we cannot decipher and cut one open and smell the citrusy inside and guess at its identity. We blow dandelions and make wishes and we analyze seed pods and we follow baby bunnies in the hopes of locating their homes. We point out the shapes in the clouds and toss rocks and search for honeysuckle. I watch them wander and explore and I can see their worries drift away with the dandelion feathers. I don’t tell them how times have changed since I was a kid because they don’t need to know that and I don't rush them into the next moment. We let spring take us by the hand and pull us wherever it wants to take us. I have to remind myself to make time to allow them more days like this – more days as free range children.
Marriage is about give and take, yin and yang, being flexible and willing to stretch a little to make things work. There’s a lot we have had to stretch that I figured would be part of the deal: a dollar, a car ride to keep the baby asleep, a vacation that we didn’t want to end, etc. etc. etc. What I didn’t anticipate was how much my heart would stretch.
Before kids, I loved my husband, I mean really loved him: The I can’t stand a weekend-away from you kind of love… The you hang up first kind of love… The you are the exhale to my inhale kind of love…the we have a new puppy and this is sealing the deal kind of love. And we both knew it the second we found it. He did, after all, ask me to marry him the very night I met him. What could be more romantic?
So we were lucky enough to find love. His father explained it somehow akin to me stopping a runaway train – and I laughed because I knew he was doing the same by capturing me forever.
We worked and played house and loved every second. We stretched our cooking abilities, our home improvement talents, and our landscaping knowhow as we learned through trial and error. And we laughed a lot. Funny has always been part of the deal for us. Funny works.
I knew I could never love anyone as I loved him. And then we had our first child. And suddenly the guy I loved became a new man in front of my very eyes and I somehow, incredulously, loved him even more than I had before – the impossible became a reality. With every feeding or changing or rocking, I saw my husband become a father and I loved him more. My heart stretched.
As parents we learned about stretching meals with leftovers to save more for diapers and we learned about stretching out days so we could fit time for work and play and keeping up a household that now housed a family.
And then we had a daughter. Again, my full heart seemed it could spare no more love than it already held, but my heart must have stretched by two sizes to fit all the extra love I now felt for this man as he carried the pink diaper bag confidently over his shoulder at a restaurant or snapped her safely into her swing.
A family of four now, we hit plenty of stretches along the way: stretches of firsts (first teeth, first words, first steps, first broken bones, first recitals, first games, first sleepovers, first hurt feelings, etc. etc. etc.), stretches of good times (He’s reading! She’s off with no training wheels! They’re getting along!), stretches of bad times (Will we ever have a date? Will we ever pay all these bills? Will we ever all be healthy at the same time?).
And all along the way, in the ups and the downs- the hugs after scraped knees, the “you’re driving me crazy!”s, the scout campouts, the sleepless nights, the “I would love just 5 minutes of peace!”s, the dance classes, the stresses at work, the “I’ll wash the dishes tonight, I can see you are out of steam” - no matter the stretch, we made it through every time.
When he turned 40 I tried to throw a party, but being in the spotlight is just not his style and he told me he wasn’t having it. I cooked his favorite dinner and the kids made nametags and set the table in the dining room for special. We gave him a book of pictures from over the years showing him the wonderful father and husband that he is. And he got a bit quiet. The corners of his mouth turned up in smiles and then turned down a time or two and the kids asked if he liked it. He said he did, but he couldn’t believe how fast they’d grown, how quickly we arrived here. And he admitted that he missed the days of diapers and late nights and arguments about whose turn it was to do the feedings.
And somehow I loved him even more. Again. When I thought my heart had no more room to grow, still it stretched. Because we are in this together. And we can’t stop time. And our busiest and craziest moments of parenthood are flashes and someday we will miss every stretch; the good, the bad, and the ugly.
I see our future, full of stretches we’ll experience together. One stretch I know will be difficult will be the one when our babies grow up and leave and we will be what’s left of a family that used to take up every nook and cranny of this house that we have made a home. It will be hard, but we will be together through it and we will hold each other’s hands and hang in there. And we’ll probably fight some too and get on each other’s nerves because, hey, we aren’t perfect. And there will be highs and lows just like there are now. And then will come the stretch when our children find love and get married and our hearts will stretch again. And we will dance at the weddings and rock the grandbabies and we will still look at each other the same way we do now. The look that says, “Surely I could never love you more than I do now”…but we will. Our hearts will find a way to stretch as they always have. And I will once again be in disbelief that I was lucky enough to have known a love like this.